Five reasons to include carbohydrates in your diet
By Vanessa LaFaso Stolarski, Contributing Columnist
When it comes to nutrition, proteins and fats get all the glory, while carbohydrates get sent to the corner like an undisciplined classroom student. Perhaps that’s because many of the foods we have come to refer to as “carbs” are often sugar-laden, processed varieties that are well-known to cause health or weight issues.
However, healthy carbohydrates like beans, fruits and other vegetables are essential for maintaining good health and should not be overlooked. Aside from being an easily tapped energy source, here are several other reasons why carbohydrates should form a significant part of a balanced diet.
Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for the human body. When consumed, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which is used by the body as fuel for all cellular functions. Glucose is particularly important for brain function, as it is the preferred energy source for this vital organ. By including carbohydrates in our diet, we ensure a steady supply of energy that supports physical activities and cognitive processes.
Carbohydrates also provide essential vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Carb-dominant foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables are rich in complex carbohydrates, which are packed with nutrients. These foods offer an array of vitamins, including B vitamins, vitamin C, and essential minerals such as potassium and magnesium. Furthermore, the dietary fiber found in carbohydrates aids in digestion, promotes a healthy gut microbiome and helps regulate cholesterol levels.
Contrary to popular belief, carbohydrates are not the enemy when it comes to weight management. They can play a crucial role in a healthy weight loss or maintenance plan. When consumed in their complex form, carbohydrates provide a feeling of satiety, which helps control hunger and prevent overeating and cravings. Moreover, for most individuals, going carb-free for good is unrealistic and often results in weight regain because it’s not a sustainable protocol.
PHYSICAL PERFORMANCEFor individuals engaging in regular physical activity, carbohydrates are essential for optimal performance. During exercise, the body relies heavily on stored carbohydrates, known as glycogen, to fuel muscle contractions. When glycogen levels are depleted, fatigue sets in, and physical performance declines. By consuming an adequate amount of carbohydrates before and after exercise, individuals can replenish glycogen stores and enhance their endurance and overall athletic performance.
A well-rounded and balanced diet requires the inclusion of all macronutrients in appropriate proportions. Carbohydrates, along with proteins and fats, provide the body with the necessary nutrients to function optimally. Restricting or eliminating carbohydrates from the diet can lead to imbalances and deficiencies in other essential nutrients. It is important to choose healthier sources of carbohydrates, such as whole grains, legumes and fruits, while being mindful of portion sizes.
Carbohydrates are an integral part of a healthy and balanced diet. They are the body’s primary energy source, provide essential nutrients, contribute to weight management, and enhance physical performance. By including carbohydrates in our daily meals, we H6 can ensure our bodies receive the necessary fuel and nutrients for overall well-being. However, it is important to make wise choices and opt for complex carbohydrates found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, while moderating the consumption of refined carbohydrates. Embracing carbohydrates as an essential component of good nutrition is a key step toward achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Vanessa LaFaso Stolarski is a certified nutrition counselor, weightlifting coach, life coach and stress-management specialist.
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